Explosive Dover aims for lacrosse tourney success

DOVER — They like to describe themselves as ‘unpredictable.’

Of course, Dover High’s boys’ lacrosse players realize that means there’s some bad plays that go along with the good ones when they’re on the field.

“You never know how we’re going to come out,” said junior defender Nadeem Boggerty. “Sometimes we start off hot and then slow down. Sometimes we start slow and end it hot.”

But the Senators’ overall results this spring have been consistently good lately.

With one game left, Dover is 10-4 and has already wrapped up its third-straight berth in the DIAA state tournament. Another victory would match the program’s highest regular-season win total since 2012.

Junior attackman Will Niebrzydowski (64 goals, 30 assists) is Dover’s leading scorer. (Delaware State News file photos)

The Senators, of course, would like more than that. And they’re hoping their high-risk, high-reward approach will make them a difficult team to beat in the state tourney.

Dover is averaging 14 goals per game and has been held to single digits only three times this season.

“This year, as a team, we’re way more explosive,” said third-year head coach Michael Denman. “We’re very fast and we’re dangerous. We keep the pressure on, we keep the force coming.

“But, if we get in transition and turn the game into a track meet, it can potentially be bad if we’re not putting balls in the back of the net.”

When the season started, Denman wanted to see the Senators not only score more goals but get more assists — pass the ball more rather than just going one-on-one.

He likes the results.

Dover head coach Michael Denman

While junior attackman Will Niebrzydowski (64 goals, 30 assists) is still the team’s leading scorer, junior Rob Mason (37 goals, 35 assists), junior Divine Watkins (35 goals, 15 assists) and sophomore Thomas Gill (37 goals, 24 assists) have all made big offensive contributions.

“I like assists more than goals a lot of times,” said Mason. “It just always felt better when you get your buddy a goal.”

As for the aggressive approach, Mason said there’s always ups and downs.

“We’re run and gun,” said the midfielder. “We’re definitely run and gun. It’s working but then it can bite us sometimes. … I’d say there’s times when we’ve got to slow down and there’s times when we’ve got to speed up.”

Dover junior Rob Mason has 37 goals and 35 assists this season.

“I think when we you have the tools that we have, with our athleticism and everything, it makes sense to play that way,” said Niebrzydowski. “(But) those close games when you’re up by one or two with a minute left, you’re like, ‘Just hold the ball.’ It’s the hardest time to do it but you have to.”

At the other end of the field, it’s Dover’s defense that frequently pays the price when there’s too many turnovers.

Senior goalie Kyle Potter is averaging double figures in saves. He made 20 stops in a recent 17-6 win over Caravel.

But, even though they get left short-handed sometimes when the middies get caught upfield, the defenders like the Senators’ aggressive approach, too.

“With how strong we are with our athleticism and speed, it just doesn’t make sense to try to play the other team’s style — when what we’re good at is completely different,” said Potter. “I definitely see a lot more shots in this kind of style. I’ve gotten used to it.”

Junior defender Cole Palmer likes Dover’s energy. “There’s always something going on,” he said. “It’s always entertaining. It can be fun in games sometimes but we take it serious when we need to.”

Boggerty said it helps that many of Dover’s players have been on varsity for three seasons. Maturity comes in handy when you’re facing adversity.

“We’re a close-knit group of guys,” said Boggerty. “We always look out for each other.

“You can definitely see it on the field at times. Back when we were younger, if someone made a mistake, we’d probably fuss at each other. But now it’s, ‘Shake it off, we’re all right.’ We’ll get it back the next play.”

And that’s maybe the best thing about this team, said Denman. Whatever style the Senators are playing, they just seem to like working together.

He hopes that continues to pay off for Dover when the state tourney starts on May 23.

The Senators have reached the tournament’s secpond round twice in the last four years.

Senior goalie Kyle Potter is averaging double figures in saves. He made 20 stops in a recent 17-6 win over Caravel.

“They show up every day to practice, they work their tails off,” said Denman. “They never start pointing fingers if it’s not going the way we want it but they’re always looking to lift each other up. And it’s a fun group to coach.”

Junior defender Cole Palmer said he likes the Senators’ energy.

“There’s always something going on,” he said. “It’s always entertaining. It can be fun in games sometimes but we take it serious when we need to.

“At the end of the day, we want to play,” Palmer said about the state tournament. “We’ll get it in there and play our hearts out and hopefully get the results we deserve.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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